On Trial

Today, guest blogger Stephanie Van Gorden ministers to us on the topic of suffering. Stephanie is a regular contributor to the blog. She and her husband Matt make their home in beautiful Colorado. 

The second chapter of Cynthia Heald’s Bible study, Becoming a Woman of Excellence, lays out the argument for having such a goal. So it focuses on God's character, specifically His love, sovereignty, and provision. One particularly helpful exercise, based on particular Scriptures she suggests, asks the student to write a paragraph giving a Scriptural view of suffering.

Let me be clear: Matt and I don't suffer terribly. In fact, when comparing ourselves to others, we barely suffer at all. God has given us a great life—an abundant life. Are there things we'd like to change? Sure. We'd love to be through with this particular adoption process, but God is enough while we wait. I'd love to be healthy and feel normal again, but God is enough if He continues to allow this particular weakness in my life to manifest His glory. We'd love to minister to perfect people (like us, of course...um...) who are already mature and never complain, gossip, criticize, balk at serving, or insist on their own way. But God is enough since we are none of us perfect, we're all experiencing the humanly difficult process of becoming like Christ, and since we all complain, gossip, criticize, balk at serving, and insist on our own way—some of us more than others, but none of us blameless.

So we don't really suffer outside the normal realm of the kind of suffering everyone experiences. We're not special. This exercise was especially helpful, though, because I feel like this has been The Lesson I Most Need To Learn over the course of my adult life.

Maybe this distillation of only a few passages that give direction and comfort will be helpful to you, as it was to me:

According to Scripture...affliction is good (Psalm 119:71) because it accomplishes God’s purpose.

According to Scripture...God’s purpose in allowing trial in our lives is manifold: sometimes He wants to teach us something (Psalm 119:71; 2 Corinthians 12:7), sometimes He wants to strengthen our testimony to a blind, lost, and dying world (John 9:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:7, 10). Sometimes it’s a consequence of sin, but that’s not a given (John 9:1-2). Whatever the reason we see, His purpose is always to do us good (2 Corinthians 4:16-17) and to manifest His glory (His character) in our lives and to the world (John 9:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, 12:9-10).

According to Scripture...God’s character doesn’t change when He allows us to experience trial and sorrow: He is always righteous and faithful (Psalm 119:75); steadfast, loving, and comforting (Psalm 119:76), and gracious (2 Corinthians 12:9). He “keeps His eye on the clock and His hand on the thermostat,” as Wiersbe says, never allowing the trial to go beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), maintaining control on its scope at all times (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). His sovereignty is never challenged, even when He allows Satan to get in on what’s going on (Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 46:9-10; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Given all this, I can rejoice in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17-19) even when experiencing deep trial, because I know that He is sovereignly working to bring about peace (John 16:33), encouragement, and good (Psalm 119:71; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28-29) in my life, and to glorify Himself. He cannot glorify Himself if He allows me—His creation and His child in Christ—to fall (Psalm 37:23-24). I can rejoice because He holds me in the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:15-16; John 10:28-30), He is God, and He will never fail (Psalm 119:89-90).